1… 2… 3… And I’m back in the room. Or more accurately, back in the country. If you want to read about last week’s adventures on the digital mission, then check out my guest post on TechCrunch UK: “21 Digital Companies hit New York..” A big thank you to Mike Butcher for letting my scrawl interweave with his. As you would expect, you can see the week in pictures on via the digitalmission Flickr tag.

It was a most interesting week to be in New York, and I use the term interesting in the very best chinese proverb sense of the word. Walking past Lehman Brothers and listening to the chatter on the street, it felt like I was in the middle of the tumultuous events that threaten the world economy. 

It is easy to get thrown off course by events around us, or overly caught up in details. I picked up an iPod touch whilst in New York, and was looking at the applications to download when I spotted an app called “f/8”. You see what I mean? Anyway, I had no idea what the name meant, other than it must relate to photography, since f/8 is a camera setting.

If you are a DSLR fan or an old school photographer, this is familiar territory. If you are not, then welcome to the world of photography, it is surprisingly geeky. There are loads of technical terms and dozens of settings to fiddle with: Shutter speed, ISO, focal length, aperture (f-number of which f/8 is one). A photographer can spend hours finding the perfect settings, fiddling with tiny details to get a slightly better result. F/8 is an application to help with those settings, but more interestingly, it comes from a famous photojournalism phrase: 

f/8 and be there

[if you want to know more about photojournalism, there is stunning site here – thanks to @documentally for the pointer] F/8 and be there essentially says forget about the settings – F/8 works for most photographic situations. Instead, focus on making sure you are there. That means rather than fiddling with the camera, notice what is happening. As any photojournalist will tell you, if you aren’t on the scene and you don’t spot the shot, it doesn’t matter how perfect those camera settings are, you’ve missed it. 

In today’s digital world, how often are we ‘there’? We have newsfeeds, digital photos, video and a myriad of other things that call our attention to the past or to somewhere else. There is certainly value in those things, but if we become pre-occupied by them, rather than by what is happening right here and now, then we loose our only control over what happens next. We are fiddling with the camera settings, rather than taking the photographs.

There is little productive value in living in the past or fussing about details which might never be relevant. They set context, and provide lessons, that’s good, but turning things over and over rarely helps. Similarly just wishing for things to happen has little value either. Mentally constructing alternative views of possible futures without pulling them into the here and now has, as far as I know, never changed anything for the better.

“I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow

Be right here, right now, shaping your piece of the world. Leaders look to the future, sure, but they are aware of the moment and act. Notice the moment you are in, what you are able to do and do it. Don’t sweat the details: F/8 and be there.